Overcome the headaches of managing your own VPS server

When building your first website, you want a user-friendly web hosting solution. After all, this will be your first experience with this rather technical service, and it’s easy to get discouraged when you start hitting bumps in the road.

Not surprising Shared hosting is as popular as ever – the service is inexpensive, easy to use, and includes professional support from your host.

As a business owner, however, there are other things you should be concerned about: optimized speeds, impenetrable security, building a flawless brand image. To achieve this, you need something more powerful …

This is where VPS hosting comes in.

Why should you choose a virtual server?

Virtual servers provide users with a completely isolated environment with plenty of server resources (CPU, RAM, disk space, bandwidth) to easily host small projects and high traffic websites. Not only that, but you can often adjust your resources so that you never hit any limits once your site starts to grow.

The VPS environment also brings tons of other benefits.

Your online security is in much better hands. For starters, you don’t share your account with anyone else on this server, so no outside breach is possible. You can configure your defenses by following the standards and protocols that you find most reliable. It is also possible to make plug-in changes and upgrades to the server, as you have no neighbors to interfere with.

Looking at the plans for virtual servers in more detail, we can describe two main types: managed and unmanaged VPS hosting.

Our job today is to find out more about these.

The advantages of self-managed hosting

Unmanaged or self-managed VPS hosting provides the customer with a simple server with fixed capacity and basic configuration. From there, the user has full control over the environment, free to modify and customize it to their exact needs.

As you might assume, this hands-on approach is best suited for developers and site owners with at least some technical background. Your hosting support is not involved in your day-to-day operations, nor can you help with any issues. Still, if you know what you’re doing, a self-managed VPS can easily be your best bet.

The key here is full root access.

This experience is as close as operating your own dedicated server. You have complete freedom of customization, which makes the service a preferred choice for webmasters with very specific and complex requirements.

What if you wanted to try running your VPS as a novice? Is it really possible?

How to configure and manage your VPS

Dealing with a virtual server for the first time can seem overwhelming, but it actually follows simple logical rules that you would normally apply to any type of service. Let’s take a look at the essential steps for beginners:

cPanel

(Image credit: Marco Verch / Flickr)

Choose your operating system and control panel

If you are looking to set up a Linux hosting server, the most popular choice to start with would be to install the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP). It is free and open source, containing the essentials for building any kind of Linux based website.

You will also need to choose a specific operating system, as Linux offers many distributions. Depending on your needs, you can opt for CentOS, Debian, Ubuntu, RedHat or any other solution you deem favorable to your project.

The control panel is not an essential part of your experience, but the graphical environment will greatly facilitate your life of managing your server. WHM + cPanel is a combination appreciated by many webmasters, but the increase in license fees has steered them towards other possibilities like Panel. The latter is a tailor-made solution by Scala accommodation, packed with everything you need for complete control.

Understanding Secure Shell Access (SSH)

Secure Shell Access (or SSH) allows you to connect to and operate your server through a command line interface. In a Linux environment, this can happen through the terminal or any other SSH client.

Once you have registered with your web host, they will provide you with different credentials and server information. You can now open Terminal and login as root administrator with the following command:

ssh [root username]@[server IP]

Once you run it, the system will verify the username and ask for the corresponding password. Providing the correct access key will reveal a welcome message and you can begin your first accommodation trip on a VPS.

waiters

(Image credit: Panumas Nikhomkhai / Pexels)

Server update

Keeping your server up to date is a key aspect if you want your website to remain fast and secure. Developers often introduce new features and security fixes that you absolutely want to apply in a timely manner.

First of all, you need to check if there are any updates available. For Debian-based servers, you can enter the command:

appropriate update

If you have opted for CentOS or RHEL, you can try with:

yum check-update Where dnf control update

Let’s say the system detects that a new update is available. Our job now is to apply it. In Debian, the command would be:

appropriate upgrade

Analogously, in CentOS and RHEL environments, the process is slightly different. You must type:

yum update Where update dnf

You have to wait a bit for the update to finish. Then it’s always a good idea to restart the server to make sure all of the changes are in place.

Creation of a new user

Until now, you have been operating as the root administrator, which gives you unlimited control over the server. In the future, it is very possible that you will need to add more users, either for yourself or for other people you might work with.

To do this, run the following command:

adduser [new user’s username]

After choosing a password for the account, you need to assign it to the correct group so that it can have superuser privileges. Here is the command for that:

usermod -aG sudo [new user’s username]

To test if the new user is configured correctly, end your current session and try to log in with the new credentials.

representative image of a cloud firewall

(Image credit: Pixabay)

Setting up a firewall

Make sure you don’t skip this step as it is one of your most important safety weapons. A firewall filters all inbound and outbound traffic to prevent any risk of unauthorized breach.

For this job, you can completely trust iptables.

It ships by default with some Linux distributions, but others will require additional tweaking. For example, CentOS will ask you to install an additional tool for configuring iptables, called Firewalld. Ubuntu’s counterpart is called UFW.

Fortunately, all firewall tools come with extensive documentation on how to configure them properly in different environments.

Managed hosting alternatives

Even though the process of setting up and managing a VPS server is less complicated than it looks, completely new users still have a certain learning curve to overcome. This is why, unless their project specifically requires it, most beginners go for the very simplified Managed VPS plans.

This type of hosting benefits from all the advantages of the virtual server environment, but also adds professional support to it. Trained professionals will take care of most of the daunting day-to-day tasks as well as setting up your server, security installations, monitoring and maintenance.

Overall, signing up with a reliable Managed VPS provider will allow you to focus on your business plans instead of wasting time learning more about server management.